Here’s a little DYI tutorial for making gift envelopes. My kids made these for the Chinese New Year, but you can also use them to celebrate generosity anytime.
To wish someone Happy New Year, you say, Kung Hei Fat Choi! (It is pronounced “goong hay fat choy” in the Cantonese dialect.) This year the Chinese New Year was celebrated February 8. The festival lasts for fifteen days, beginning on the first day of the lunar calendar. Unlike the Western (Gregorian) calendar, the lunar calendar is based on the cycles of the moon.
Good luck, long life, and wealth are important themes in Chinese New Year rituals and preparations. The red envelopes usually used to give money to kids and unmarried people symbolize these themes. Red is lucky in Chinese culture, and the envelopes are thought to bring good luck to giver and receiver.
The character you can draw on your envelopes is “fook” (or “fu” in Mandarin). It is the symbol of good luck. According to Natasha Yim, “during the new year, [this symbol] is often hung upside down on the front door, because the word for upside down sounds the same as the word for arrive. When guests come to visit, they say, ‘your fook (or fu) is upside down!’ which sounds exactly like, ‘your happiness has arrived.’” (Goldy Luck).
Before New Year’s Day, many people clean their houses, repay old debts and clear up old arguments in order to start fresh in the new year. But, no sweeping should be done on New Year’s Day.
Most people also gather for a holiday meal. They eat food with special meanings, such as dumplings, noodles, oranges, and turnip cakes. Dumplings are shaped like old Chinese money and represent prosperity. Fish symbolize abundance, because the Chinese word for fish, sounds like excess. Long noodles represent long life. Oranges are like gold coins and are said to bring wealth.
This year is the year of the fire monkey. A monkey year is great for curiosity, innovation, trying new things and shaking things up. Monkeys are said to be inquisitive, mercurial, mischievous, innovative and entertaining — like the monkey king. A red year is also a year to be brave, bold, and jump in.
My kids like to use these envelopes to give wishes and good luck, and to play with — as special objects of kindness or generosity. These envelopes can also be made out of any paper you like.
You will need:
Glue or a glue stick
A gold permanent marker or paint pen.
Begin with a rectangle of paper, roughly 4 x 5 1/2 (regular 8 1/2 by 11 paper cut in half). Make a template by simply trimming the sides by about a half inch and making the middle section rounded.
Take some red paper and cut it along the pattern template.
Then, fold the two sides in and glue.
Fold the bottom up and glue. Leave the top open for your gifts. You can close it with tape or stickers, or just leave is gently folded when you give your gifts.
Then, draw the “good luck” character (found on the envelopes pictured above) on the front of yours with the gold paint pen. Make sure the pen is working by holding the tip down until paint seeps into it. You can also draw other designs on your envelope, or make a gift envelope out of any paper that you like.
A book to check out for kids during the year of the fire monkey is, The Magical Monkey King: Mischief in Heaven, classic Chinese tales retold by Ji-Li Jiang and illustrated by Youshan Tang. This is fun book of classic Chinese stories, good for elementary school readers, grade 2 and up, and fun for little ones to listen to, as well. You can get this book, along with a all of Folklala’s spring crafts and info, in the Spring 2016 box, on the SHOP page.